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SAVE ups ante for Palladian villas

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Activists alarmed by threats to some of Andrea Palladio's bestknown villas have cranked up their campaign by lobbying MEPs.

British-based SAVE Europe's Heritage has written to 200 MEPs and is sending out another 50 letters, which include a report on threats to the 16thcentury villas near Venice.

The hills and flat fens south of Vicenza, which have World Heritage Site status as a way of protecting the villas, face a 'double assault', said SAVE secretary Adam Wilkinson.

A proposed 34-mile Valdastico Sud motorway would run within 100m of the Palladian villas and farms, and there are plans to build huge warehouses, called cappenoni, in the open countryside, of which about 1,000ha could be ripped up and built on.

Wilkinson said his charity, an offshoot of SAVE Britain's Heritage, supported a legal challenge by the local campaign group Italia Nostra.

'It's a tall order, ' said Wilkinson. 'But it is worth fighting for and I'm optimistic. It would be dreadful to plaster warehouses all over this countryside.'

Buildings said to be under threat include Palladio's Villa Capra, better known as La Rotonda - perhaps his most influential work.

The plans have mired Italian prime minister and current EU president Silvio Berlusconi in controversy.

His government has been accused of rigging planning measures by sacking 23 out of the 36 members of an environment commission all of whom objected to the proposals.

A report, Unforg ivable Assault on a World Heritage Site, costs £5 from SAVE Europe's Heritage, 70 Shawcross Street, London EC1M 6EJ.

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